People, governments, corporations and other stakeholders have realised how critical data, facts, figures and statistics are to the development to propel nations to greater heights. Not just in Namibia, or in the SADC region, but globally the mining of data and basing policies and blue-prints for the future on real, reliable and well-researched statistics is now the norm.
New careers such as being data scientist now exist. Statistics is at the centre of the data revolution. The Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) has successfully managed to place statistics and development at the epicentre of national discourse and continues to do so, stimulating and assisting other stakeholders to do the same.
Transformation in general is something human beings struggle with, whether in our personal or professional lives. If we simply look around our world today, we will see a world that is very different than five years ago and completely different from 20 years ago.
Technology has been the major driver of this incredible change and the transformation we have witnessed. It has actually taken over our lives one bit and byte at a time. For example, just take a look at the whole concept of the Internet of Things (IoT).
It is our understanding that the Internet of Things holds a significant promise for delivering social and economic benefits to emerging and developing economies, including Namibia. This covers almost every sector imaginable, including areas such as sustainable agriculture, water quality and use, healthcare, industrialization, and environmental management, and many more.
As such, IoT, with location-based data holds the promise as the tools capable of propelling us to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. That is why I was pleased to to deliver the opening remarks at the Namibia GIS-NSDI Forum 2018 earlier this week. I am huge fan of statistics and of measuring what can be measured and defined.
Business analytics, deep learning, artificial intelligence are no longer mere buzzwords to bamboozle the layperson. They have become part of our vocabulary and, more importantly, our bag of tricks to measure, analyse and make informed decisions based on data and measurable facts and figures.
Take location intelligence and location data as an example. A crucial part of big data and analytics. Simply put, location data is the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates gathered from any connected device. Accurate location data can help organisations extract meaningful insights into consumer behaviours and trends taking place in the real world.
The creation and consumption of data continues to grow, with organisations such as Facebook, IBM, Apple, Baidu, Alibaba, Amazon and many others investing millions of dollars in order to gain a competitive advantage. According to a recent IDC report, worldwide revenue for big data is set to increase from $130.1 billion in 2016 to $203 billion in 2020.
Over the last few years, as the big data boom has developed, location intelligence has also grown in relevance as more organisations look to benefit from the insights that location data provide.
According to a report published by MarketsandMarkets, the location analytics market size is estimated to grow from $8.2 billion in 2016 to $16.3 billion by 2021. This is not difficult to understand or imagine, if you look at all the applications of it.
It gives invaluable insight for the Agriculture sector: food production data per location, type of crop vs quality of harvest, crop pests & control monitoring, Livestock monitoring, migration, sickness tracking & control for example.
This is definitely data that we need and could use and leverage in Namibia. The biggest hurdles for organisations looking to leverage location insights are gathering data directly from devices and ensuring that the data being gathered is both accurate and precise enough for their use.
As Michael Porter, Professor at Harvard Business School said, innovation is the central issue in economic prosperity.
Often innovation, technology and research are used as buzz words, devoid of real meaning or even worse, without any actions or evidence to back them up.
What we need right here in Namibia and, frankly, in Africa is for these words to mean something. We need these words to be the foundation and inspiration of this generation and every upcoming generation. There can be no progress without innovation. Long term sustainable economic prosperity would be nothing but a pipe dream.
Why should only the largest tech behemoths of the world and large corporations be able to leverage technology, big data and GIS to streamline their processes, improve serve delivery and enhance their bottom line and ensure long-term growth?
That is what Namibia and Africa need to embrace as well. For Namibia, our bottom line is not profit, its far more important, namely the pursuit of economic growth, prosperity, improved health and long term socio-economic growth.
* Dr John Steytler is Namibia’s former statistician-general and currently chairs the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) board of directors.